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Keywords:

  • host adaptation;
  • genetics of speciation;
  • natural selection;
  • reproductive isolation;
  • herbivorous insects

Abstract

Divergent natural selection has been shown to promote speciation in a wide range of taxa. For example, adaptation to different ecological environments, via divergent selection, can result in the evolution of reproductive incompatibility between populations. Phytophagous insects have been at the forefront of these investigations of ‘ecological speciation’ and it is clear that adaptation to different host plants can promote insect speciation. However, much remains unknown. For example, there is abundant variability in the extent to which divergent selection promotes speciation, the sources of divergent selection, the types of reproductive barriers involved, and the genetic basis of divergent adaptation. We review these factors here. Several findings emerge, including the observation that although numerous different sources of divergent selection and reproductive isolation can be involved in insect speciation, their order of evolution and relative importance are poorly understood. Another finding is that the genetic basis of host preference and performance can involve loci of major effect and opposing dominance, factors which might facilitate speciation in the face of gene flow. In addition, we raise a number of other recent issues relating to phytophagous insect speciation, such as alternatives to ecological speciation, the geography of speciation, and the molecular signatures of speciation. Throughout, we aim to both synthesize what is known, as well as highlight areas where future work is especially needed.